Friday, January 06, 2006

The Inevitable

Top image: My collage, The Inevitable Process of Aging.

Bottom image: Paul Gauguin's At the Cafe, 1888
Pushkin museum, Moscow.
I did a brand new collage today. Classes start back for me at the university on Monday, and I wanted to do one more art project before I got overwhelmed by my commitments at work.

This one is larger than the others. It doesn't fit on the back of the postcard. I told myself I was going to limit myself to what would fit in the space of a post card, but now I've already gone back on that resolution. All art is like that: it won't stay within the bounds we've set for it!

For awhile now, I've been interested in the cycle of life. Nothing represents that cycle better, I think, than food. I associate the anticipation of a good meal to all manner of renewal. Each meal is a new opportunity to experience the fullness of life.

Our creative life is like food for our soul.

The woman in Gauguin's painting gazes out at us as through we are her dining partner. I feel she hasn't eaten yet, and she looks at us expectantly. I believe she hopes for good things, but I also believe the past has taught her to accept that good things do not, like the old adage promises, always come to those who wait. Therefore, she has always seemed a little sad to me, tired. And lonesome. Since my art school days, I have always attributed her solitary demeanor to the encroachment of middle age, which certainly poses its own quandaries involving change and possible stagnation. Just look at the customers behind her: talk about stagnation!

Yes, Gauguin's model is frozen just at the moment of mild, quiet expectation.

Looking at At the Cafe earlier today, I thought of aging. Not just aging but also the process of life.

The partially peeled orange in my collage represents the hopeful expectation of good things to come expressed by Gauguin's model. The birds at the right, young love. The old man at Queen Victoria's feet is of tiny stature, hardly consequential at all. Queen Victoria stands on an orange sphere. Her image was fun to work with from its original conception to the final touches. The venerable image of the queen transmogrifies into the image of a clown. Her great energy, her great power is dwarfed.

The image, as humorous as it may seem, speaks to me a little bit of the fear we all have of being made grotesque by old age: indeed, the children huddle next to a dilapidated tennis ball in silent awe, and, perhaps, fear of what awaits them in the years to come.

I believe the vulture needs little explanation except to say that I love vultures and do not think of them in a negative sense at all. They are necessary creatures, beautiful in their own way. They represent the magical mystery of life because they clean up the dead things and convert them into new energy. Whenever we die to an old self, the vulture is always there to clean up the carcass of that old life. Without the vulture we couldn't carry on.

I had a very good time making this collage. I have put it up in my writing room to see what it can tell me about a character I'm working with in one of my new stories. I think my experiment of working with imagery is proving useful to me in my writing life. It helps me to discover important imagery.

And, not insignificantly, it's fun!


Cynthia said...

Oh, I'm enjoying reading you again. I've thought about y'all so much, and I've missed your presence. Gauguin's woman has always struck me as being quietly amused by something pretentious. She sees the foolishness but isn't going to say anything, because she knows that experience must be the teacher. There's something wise about her, and I think it is the wisdom of age. Your collages are something else, dream images with layers and layers of meanings and symbols. I could spend hours thinking about this one.

Theresa Williams said...

Cynthia: You said that Gauguin's woman "sees the foolishness but isn't going to say anying..."

I really like that and I can see that in her face now that you mention it. It is amazing how we can look at a painting at different points in our lives and get a totally different "read" from it each time. I have missed everyone! Great to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Theresa, this collage is fascinating. I wish I could see it up close. There are some images that speak to me immediately. I like to see Queen Victoria, my namesake (or am I hers?) My grandmother was born the year she died. And I recognize the little guys down below, don't I? I shall re-visit this one.

As for the Gauguin painting, my sense of the woman is one of tired, mild cynicism. A kind of French "been there, done that" attitude. With a touch of amusement at the follies of her her fellow diners. I think she has had a long day and a tough life. Like Cynthia's impression, really.

Anonymous said...

Oops - sorry, that last one was me - Vicky - but you probably guessed from the references to Victoria!


ckays1967 said...

In many ways Gauguin has always reminded me of VanGogh in a less colorful way. This picture is much like the potato eaters, sublime and full.

I really like your collage projects and wonder if it would be copying to do some of my own or if it would be simply doing the homework...

But where to find postcards? And would I then be forced to send them into to Post Secrets?

Celeste said...

I am glad you are back. I have prayed for you and your family in this time of need.

Tammy said...

I saw what Cynthia saw but could never have said it so well! I'm sorry you are going back because I liked where you were going with your collage art. I see vultures in a whole new light. lol

dreaminglily said...

You know, I really hope that whenever I take an art class I have a teacher like you. You make it so interesting, so exciting to me. I really do love the way you see things. Makes me take a better look at things.

Thanks for getting me to look a little deeper.


Anonymous said...

When I was in Virginia, one of the writers I met did colleges of her characters to help her figure them out. She posted them on the walls of her studio to help her focus as she wrote. They were really cool and really beautiful--a gorgeous medium. Yours is awesome...but you knew that didn't you?

Isn't it great how one art form can inspire another? Of course I've experienced through my own writer/artist background (I need to show you my portfolio sometime--let's trade next time we get together, okay?) but I witnessed an even more concrete, expanded version of this at VCCA. This one hit me hard, Theresa.

Very cool.


Judith HeartSong said...

someday I would love to own one of your incredible collages....... so very glad you are back. You have been in my thoughts non-stop.

Gannet Girl said...

You're back! I'm so glad you posted in Cynthia's blog or how would I have known? I'm going to skim your entries now and will read them with relish when I come home from NOLA.

Anonymous said...

I keep coming back and looking and finding more...

This is so meaningful to me, my dear.

Love, Vicky

ckays1967 said...

I put up a little collage for you.

No words, just pictures.

Plus, I thought I should tell you that I am almost emotionally ready to anwer your interview questions from last April. I know that you have plum forgotten about them, but I haven't. I carry them in my purse and around my heart. Like an albatross...I pull them out and think about the answers now and then.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful collage! Mind boggling for character image- at first- then with study- little by little- sections reveal more-
Such a warm feeling- reading you and the reverberations around you-
With the glow of Gauguin-

V said...

Hi Theresa,
I`ve always thought of Gauguin`s woman as someone pensive & wistful. I see sort of an acceptance of the inevitable. Maybe a sudden insight into her dolorous existence.

I am very impressed with your work. The mighty Queen as a nightlamp! The earth`s eye and vuktures. Again, as in Gauguin, the inevitability of life and death.

Beautifully done.

ckays1967 said...

I finally posted the answer to my interview questions, ten months late.

Because AOL won't send you anything from blogger I thought I would just drop by and let you know that the post is up....come see it please.

Tell me what you think.

It is long.

V said...

What you inspired in Christina. Wow!

Tammy said...

Theresa, I loved your interview with Christina, it brought out so much. Now I'm curious so I'll be reading your book soon :)

TiAnKa said...


Thank you for seeking out the best in my daughter. Your pointed and wise questions have brought her to a wonderful place. It is because of your suggestions that she has followed through and will soon be the proud owner of two new books! For this my dear, I am sending you one of the biggest hugs in the world!

And about your collages...they are fantastic! I love the symbolic way you express your inner-self! By the way, Gauguin is one of my favorite painters. I love the way he loved his women both physically and emotionally. I believe that his love, or perhaps lust, is the reason he was able to paint them with such high regard. He captured our essence with his brush, don't you agree?

Prayers and hugs,


TiAnKa said...

Oh no...I sent you a two arm hug, only something happened to the right arm.



Globetrotter said...

What an incredible post! I am so glad I discovered this journal through a comment you left in 'V's' journal.

I recently took a collage class and the teacher did very little to inspire me to either want to create a collage, or even return to his 6 week class. Your collage, albeit viewed from cyberspace, has given new inspiration to the piece I have been struggling with titled, 'My past life as a French whore.'

I'll also now look at Gauguin's painting in a whole new light since I also have thought long and hard about stagnation and aging in recent years. My own mid life crisis would have gone a bit smoother, I believe, had I had my painting to help set me free.

I am a beginner, but it's never too late to find expression for our feelings and thoughts.


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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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